As Syracuse.com's Nate Mink pointed out yesterday, a LOT of the Syracuse Orange's new football staff will be on the sidelines for Bowling Green's final game -- the GoDaddy Bowl tonight against Georgia Southern. Soon-to-be Orange defensive coordinator Brian Ward will be interim head coach for the Falcons. Co-offensive coordinators Mike Lynch and Sean Lewis will call plays one last time at BGSU before doing the same at Syracuse. Tom Freeman, Tom Kaufman, Kim McCloud and Nick Monroe will also be participating in tonight's game as a farewell to the group they coached.
It's certainly a cool gesture, and one that hasn't hurt Syracuse at all as they seemed to do just fine organizing 2016 recruiting priorities despite not being on campus. Beyond that, it also gives Orange fans a chance to see its new staff in action one more time before they arrive at SU.
So what should you be watching for tonight as Bowling Green takes on Georgia Southern at 8 p.m. ET (on ESPN)?
The Tampa-2 in Action
Bowling Green doesn't run a pure Tampa-2, just an adjusted Cover 2. But you should be able to spot some of the elements of the former in the latter tonight. As we discussed right here a week ago, things are going to change from hard hits and tons of blitzing, to sound coverage and a major focus on the middle linebacker spot. While we focused a lot on how the Tampa-2 defends the pass, we only glossed over its effectiveness against the run. BGSU's defense will be put to the test in that regard tonight, however. Georgia Southern is the best rushing team in the country (over 355 yards per game on the ground). If the Falcons can stop them, it seems like the start of a good omen for Syracuse, no?
More Focus on Lynch and Lewis's Play-Calling
It's Dino Babers's scheme, of course. But without Babers on the sideline, it could be worth seeing how play-calling could differ when the reins are largely held by his two offensive co-pilots. We got a good glimpse WITH him after watching the MAC Championship Game a couple weeks back, and that seemed like a pretty straightforward attack. We'll see if that continues or if Lynch and Lewis introduce some new wrinkles as a test before heading off to Syracuse.
To That Note: How Will Travis Greene Be Utilized?
We saw comparisons to Ervin Philips last time around. But that was just one game where we really dug in to draw that line. Now that we see the similarities, let's really take a look and see where Greene's plugged in similarly to Erv -- and maybe even some where he's plugged in differently. Greene was primarily taking handoffs this year (1,200 yards on the ground), but also caught 27 passes (many on screens). It could be worth looking at him away from the action as well, to see how he's used as a blocker, if at all. Syracuse did a nice job improving its blocking from the wide receiver position last year. We'll see if it's something that could be a continuing theme.
Special Teams Coverage
Bowling Green's coverage unit was actually pretty bad this year (127th in punt coverage, 67th in kick). We're used to special teams being a bit rough around here, but now I'm curious as to how rough they could get.. With luck we're not doing a ton of punting next year with a new offense and a lack of Riley Dixon to boot. But there's a comparison to be had around how Syracuse has struggled to defend kicks and punts in the past, versus how Bowling Green does/doesn't here.
Plenty of other angles to take, but this should work as a quick-hits version of what to expect. Obviously, win or lose, this staff's still coming aboard. So don't grasp onto bad results should they happen... or even good ones, for that matter. Syracuse is a different team, with different personnel and different competition. Still, looking at things from a tactical standpoint, perhaps we can use tonight's game to continue piecing together what's to come for the Orange.
Nonetheless, because we're nice, supportive people most of the time. And it's the holidays. And why not?: Go Bowling Green!